Peter Pan Wiki

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"All children, except one, grow up."
Peter and Wendy (1911)
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Peter Pan is a character created by J. M. Barrie (1860–1937). A mischievous boy who can fly and magically refuses to grow up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys. In addition to two distinct works by Barrie, the character has been featured in a variety of media and merchandise, both adapting and expanding on Barrie's work.

Origins[]

Peter_and_Wendy_(novel) by J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan first appeared in J. M. Barrie's 1902 novel The Little White Bird. Later on, in 1904, the chapters containing Peter were re-published under the name Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. The character of Peter Pan is best known for his appearance in the 1904 stage play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who wouldn't Grow Up. The play was later published as a novel Peter and Wendy and eventually just shortened to Peter Pan.

Appearance[]

Barrie never described Peter's appearance in detail, even in the novel Peter and Wendy, leaving much of it to the imagination of the reader. Barrie mentions in Peter and Wendy that the character still had all of his baby teeth. He describes him as a beautiful boy with a beautiful smile, "clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that flow from trees". In the play, Peter's outfit is made of autumn leaves and cobwebs. He has blond hair, and green eyes.

In many adaptions he is usually described as having the wild streak of the Celt with a dash of the Mediterranean mixed in. In some illustrations he is shown to be Scottish/Irish with a hint of Greek or East European in him.

Traditionally the character has been played on stage by an adult woman.

Age[]

The notion of a boy who would "never grow up" was based on J. M. Barrie's older brother David who died in an ice-skating accident the day before he turned 14, and thus always stayed a young boy in his mother's mind.

Peter Pan has, however, appeared as a variety of ages. In The Little White Bird he was only seven days old and, although his age is never clearly stated, in both the play and the novel, it's clear that several years has elapsed since then. He is now a child. However, it's indicated that Peter still has all his baby teeth.

Personality[]

Peter in the original play and novel is a bit of a daredevil and heartless, as little children are. He is a boastful and careless boy to the extreme. He even congratulates himself on something Wendy did, naturally offending her. Peter is cocky and has a devil-may-care attitude. He takes things way too far, but doesn't realize it, because he lacks this sort of self-insight. One important example was when his "game" with Hook went too far and he cut off his hand and then fed it to a crocodile.

Barrie writes that when Peter thought he was going to die on Marooner's Rock, he felt scared, yet he felt only one shudder run through him when any other person would have felt scared up until death. With his blissful unawareness of the tragedy of death, he says: "To die will be an awfully big adventure."

There's also a dark playful side to Peter, that's only hinted at in the book. Barrie stated in the novel that Peter would "thin the Lost Boys" out when they got too old or when there was too many of them (meaning he may exile or kill them), and sometimes in battles against pirates Peter would switch sides just for the fun of it. It's also stated in the book that Peter would go out and "hunt pirates" for pleasure.

Like a wild animal, Peter moved from land to water and to air without a second thought. As Barrie describes, "his legs [encountered] the water as if quite unaware that they had entered a new element." Always on his feet or in the air, Peter even disclaims having slept when he's awoken by Tinker Bell to alert him of Hook's plan to kill him.

In Peter and Wendy, the Peter Pan myth Mrs. Darling heard as a child was that when children died, he accompanied them part of the way to their destination so that they would not be scared. That is very much in line with Victorian literature's obsession with child mortality.

Abilities[]

In the chapter "The Mermaid Lagoon" in Peter and Wendy, Barrie writes that there is almost nothing that Peter cannot do;

  • Peter's archetypal ability is his un-ending youth.
  • Peter's ability to fly is explained a bit. In The Little White Bird, he is able to fly because he is - like all babies – part bird. In the play and novel, he teaches the Darling children to fly using a combination of "lovely wonderful thoughts" and fairy dust; it is left unclear whether he is serious about "happy thoughts" being needed, or whether he requires the fairy dust himself. In Hook (1991), the adult Peter is unable to fly until he remembers his "happy thought".
  • Peter has an effect on the whole of Never Land and its inhabitants when he is there. Barrie states that although Never Land appears different to every child, the island "wakes up" when he returns from his trip to London.
  • Peter is a skilled swordsman, rivalling even Captain Hook, whose hand he cut off in a duel. He has remarkably keen vision and hearing, and reacts quickly to unexpected developments, preferring to do something, rather than sitting and thinking through a problem.
  • Peter is skilled in mimicry, copying the voice of Hook, and the tick-tock of the Crocodile. This often fools Captain Hook.
  • In both Peter and Wendy and Peter Pan in Scarlet, there are various allusions to Peter's ability to imagine things into existence, such as food, though this ability plays a more central role in Hook and Peter Pan in Scarlet. He also creates imaginary windows and doors as a kind of physical metaphor for ignoring or shunning his companions.
  • Peter is said to be able to feel danger when it is near.

Relationships[]

Peter does not know his parents. After returning to find his window barred and them with a new baby he assumed they didn't want him and flew away.

  • Peter is the leader of the Lost Boys, a band of boys who were lost by their parents, and came to live in Neverland. He is best friends with Tinker Bell, a common fairy who is often jealously protective of him.
  • Peter's nemesis is Captain Hook, whose hand he cut off in a duel. Hook's crew, including Smee and Starkey, also consider him a foe. However, Peter forgets who Captain Hook is after Hook is killed.
  • From time to time Peter visits the real world, particularly around Kensington Gardens, and befriends children there one of them being Maimie Mannering a four year old girl lost in Kensington Gardens. Wendy Darling, whom he recruited to be his "mother", is the most significant of them; he also brings her brothers John and Michael to Never Land at her request. He later befriends Wendy's daughter Jane, and Peter and Wendy says that he will continue this pattern indefinitely.
  • Peter appears to be known to all the residents of Neverland, including the Indian princess Tiger Lily and her tribe, the mermaids, and the fairies.

Adaptations[]

Main article: Peter Pan/Character Adaptations

Due to the popularity of the character, Peter Pan has appeared in various adaptations, sequels, and prequels, taking the character on different twists and perspectives. Walt Disney's animated version of Peter Pan was one of the earlier and most iconic ones, staying close to the original while making design choices reflective of the time. Jeremy Sumpters' Peter Pan from the 2003 film adaptation was more romantic, as unlike in most adaptations Peter had mutual romantic feelings for Wendy. Others, like the Peter Pan from the ABC series Once Upon a Time, took a darker tone reflective of J. M. Barrie's first idea of making Peter the villian. This was shown in earlier animated series Fox's Peter Pan & the Pirates which portrayed Peter Pan as more of an anti-hero who at times conducted himself in inappropriate manners to the annoyance of others so thereby at times being trying or contemptible for all the other characters.

Due to the copyright to Peter and Wendy lapsing in most parts of the world in recent times, numerous retellings in literature have been published, with variations such as the Peter Pan from the Starcatchers series by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry.

Trivia[]

  • We aren't told exactly why his surname is "Pan", but it's most likely an allusion to the Greek god Pan, who played the panpipes (Peter also plays the panpipes) and probably not a real surname in the usual human sense.
    • Peter bears many other similarities to the Greek God Pan, including being wild and untamed, living in the wild, and leading a group of beings similar to him (Peter leads a group of other little boys, while Pan leads a group of satyrs)
    • Originally it was strongly speculated that JM Barre intended to call Pan's first name as David after his brother, but settled on Peter instead therefore David became Peter Pan's middle name according to some adaptions
    • It's strongly believed JM Barre most likely envisioned Pan to be Scottish but had traits of Greek owing to the Greek god Pan
    • In the 2008 novel Peter Pan In NeverWorld by Peter Von Brown, which was based on J. M. Barrie's un-completed draft sequel to Peter and Wendy, Peter's younger brother is named Michael Pan and the estranged relationship between them is an important part of the story.

Gallery[]

Illustrations[]

Adaptations[]

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